Location: Portland, Oregon
Describe your featured work:
900 people over 8 weeks contributed to this project. We built three 20 foot looms, wrote Abraham’s story from Genesis on the warp pieces and 244 people contributed stories from their own lives that we wrote out onto the weft pieces. We invited the congregation to weave together. The looms were purposefully too large for anyone to weave alone. We needed people of various sizes, heights and abilities to carry the pieces across the looms. Then we had to hand sew every piece to the one next to it in order to remove the tapestries from the looms. There were no sign ups, people just dropped in when they could, but there were constant serendipitous intersections. It was a piece about community and being seen.
Community art and installation art are both about creating an atmosphere of encounter and engagement. I am energized by the challenge of finding the right balance for participants between freedom of experience, invitation to consider a new perspective and providing enough structure to create something beautiful. Collaboration among people of widely varying skill levels on both small scale and large scale works requires an ebb and flow of grace, humility and courage. Each community I have worked with has been surprised by the beauty they find in one another as they work side-by-side. What they find is communion. What they find is that they do belong. What they find is that they are the living Body of Christ.
What are you making now?
Lately, I have been fascinated by Yi-Fu Tuan’s description of “fields of care” as those places where we feel connected to location because of emotional investment. This has me pondering art that might encourage emotional investment in our neighborhoods and in Creation Care. In addition, I run the community art studio on the campus of the church I attend and am working longitudinally, latitudinally and investing in the connections made in-person and virtually.
I belong to CIVA because…
I am always inspired and encouraged by the way artists see The Holy. It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger, part of the Body of Christ, where unique perspectives are celebrated and unique voices considered. I belong to CIVA because I value the variety of creativity among Christ-followers.
Michelle Winter started working with women and adolescents in crisis using the expressive arts over 30 years ago. She worked as a secondary school teacher, and then in Arts Ministry. Always looking for ways to make a concept or idea come alive, Winter felt that installation and community art might help people engage abstract faith ideas and promote conversations and it has done exactly that. She has created and led dozens of community art experiences both at church and for other organizations by invitation. Now a spiritual director, Winter uses the arts in her practice where appropriate–even over Zoom. Learn more at creatorspiritus.org.